Mississippi offers some probate shortcuts for "small estates." These procedures make it easier for survivors to transfer property left by a person who has died. You may be able to transfer a large amount of property using simplified probate procedures or without any probate court proceedings at all -- by using an affidavit. And that saves time, money, and hassle.
Here are the ways you can skip or speed up probate. (If the affidavit procedure is used, there's no need to use the simplified probate procedure.)
Mississippi has a procedure that allows inheritors to skip probate altogether when the value of all the assets left behind is less than a certain amount. All an inheritor has to do is prepare a short document, stating that he or she is entitled to a certain asset. This document, signed under oath, is called an affidavit. When the person or institution holding the property -- for example, a bank where the deceased person had an account -- gets the affidavit and a copy of the death certificate, it releases the asset.
The out-of-court affidavit procedure is available in Mississippi if the total value of the estate (less liens and encumbrances) is $50,000 or less. The affidavit states that:
There is a 30-day waiting period to use this process. Miss. Code Ann. § 91-7-332.
There's another process for bank accounts, up to $12,500, if there is no will. The person claiming the money must sign a bond guaranteeing to pay any lawful debts of the deceased person to the extent of the withdrawal. Miss. Code Ann. § 81-14-383.
Mississippi has a simplified probate process for small estates. To use it, an executor files a written request with the local probate court asking to use the simplified procedure. The court may authorize the executor to distribute the assets without having to jump through the hoops of regular probate. You can use the simplified small estate process in Mississippi if the value of the estate is $500 or less. Miss. Code Ann. § 91-7-147.
Also, an inheritor may request a transfer of real property without formal probate if the deceased person:
This process is called "muniment of title." The requesting inheritor, the surviving spouse, and the rest of the inheritors in the will must sign a petition under oath, stating that all known debts of the deceased person have been paid and the estate is under the value stated above. Miss. Code Ann. § 91-5-35.
For help determining if an estate qualifies for one of these probate shortcuts, or handling an estate in general, see The Executor's Guide, by Mary Randolph (Nolo), or Estate Planning Basics, by Denis Clifford (Nolo).